There is a famous quote, actually one of many, from the Illiad, Homer’s book on the Trojan Wars that has stuck with me over the years. It is a simple quote, but speaks volumes, especially if looked at from a Masonic viewpoint. The quote is “Achilles absent is Achilles still”, and it alludes to the fact that even if Achilles was not present, his presence was still felt through his influence on those who are. The Masonic inference here really is quite obvious. Throughout our lives we are influenced continually by those we associate with, and in some cases by people we have never actually met. In our Fraternity, we constantly refer to the almost legendary figures of both our National and Masonic history and point them out to Masons and non-Masons as models of exemplary conduct that we should endeavor to emulate. In the truest sense, these Brethren are our Achilles.
I think back on the days when I first joined our Craft and of many Brethren who so worked hard and long to teach me what I needed to know and of the friendship they so willingly gave. For me, this time of learning and growth was almost mystical. To be learning such things and to be part of such an organization was almost overwhelming. The whole concept and structure of the Fraternity was to this new Brother a great mystery, as I am sure it is to every new Freemason. I was then, and still am, amazed and impressed by their ability to recite the Degrees and the Lectures, and of one elderly Brother in particular who gave me the Traditional version of the Middle Chamber Lecture (the one that is about 25 minutes in length). When he gave the Lecture to me, WBro. Dan Peterson was 85, and my Lodge Brothers said he did not miss a word. Even though many of these Brothers are no longer here, their influence and their teaching still guides me. To this new Freemason, these Brethren were and still are my Achilles.
As a young Mason, I was amazed and in awe of the Master of the Lodge. We do not call our Lodge leader President or Chairman; we call him the “Worshipful Master” – a most interesting choice of words. The concept of a Lodge “Master” is one unique to our Fraternity; it implies far more authority than is usually given to the leader of a voluntary and Fraternal organization. The meaning, as we all know is, basically, “a respected or honored Leader”. To him much is given, and from him much is expected. One Past Grand Master told me that the greatest honor bestowed upon him was not that he served as a Grand Master, but that his Lodge Brothers had enough trust in him to give him the opportunity to be Master of their Lodge. When I asked why, his answer was simple – he said when elected Grand Master the majority of the Brothers who elected did not know him, but those that elected him Master did, and on that basis chose him to govern that which they held most dear – a powerful statement. Even before I came to understand both the authority and responsibility of the job and the deference shown to the Master, I realized that the Brethren who were called Past Master were men to whom respect should always be shown.
As men and Masons, we are known and remembered for our actions. We are admonished to keep our character pure and unspotted. We are taught to walk the upright life. This is alluded to throughout our Degrees and Lectures when we speak of old age, and during Installation Ceremonies when we talk about “living respected and dying regretted”. We talk fondly of Brethren past who have had profound effects on us. From a Masonic standpoint, we are all products of that which came before us.
Brethren, please take time to remember and to thank the Brethren who served as your teachers and your mentors. We all owe a great debt to those Brethren who spent so much time teaching and explaining to us the beauties and mysteries of our Fraternity. It is a debt that can only be repaid through living, to the best of our abilities, the Masonic life they sought not only to live, but to instill in each of us. Even though many may no longer be with us, their influence still is because it lives on in us. So in a sense, our “Achilles absent is Achilles still”.
As we continue our Masonic Journey, let us continue to